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Library Receipt Books (Borrowing Registers)

The eighteenth- and nineteenth-century borrowing registers (or "receipt books") of the University of St Andrews Library are special in their scale and quality. One of the hidden treasures of the Library, they map both scholarly and leisure reading across two centuries, showing the emergence of modern disciplines, the rise and fall of authorial reputations, and the reading lives of hundreds of individual students, professors and townspeople.

Three registers exist for 1737-1759 for both professors and students, and two long runs cover 1768 to 1925 for students, and from 1773 to 1925 for professors. These runs consist of 45 volumes in total, volumes ranging between 200 and 700 pages each. The Library’s circumstances have made the records an unusually rich data source. The relative isolation of the town, the diversity of materials acquired under the provisions of the 1710 Copyright Act, and the fact that undergraduates were allowed to take books out, (they were actually discouraged from reading within the Library itself), all these factors have resulted in copious borrowings over a wide range of subjects.

The full collection of receipt books is held in the Library’s Special Collections Division and can be consulted there, but a number of the most frequently used volumes have been digitised and are available here.

See also the Library's Borrowing Registers Transcription Project.

Details of the whole collection can be found in the Records of the University Library.